When Augusta State University cross country coach Adam Ward began to rebuild the long-dormant men's program, he knew it could be years before the program reached the level he wanted.
From what he heard from area coaches, the senior boys at Greenbrier High School would provide a good core to start.
Ward landed four Wolfpack teammates -- Barret Duncan, Sean Kramer, Joey Castillo and Robert Blackwelder. The four were recognized during a ceremony on Feb. 27 at the Woodlief Clubhouse.
"Even in my conversations with other coaches from other schools, the big thing (I hear) is solid character, athletic talent and potential," Ward said. "These guys have a ton of upside."
Duncan said Ward contacted him after seeing his information on a recruiting Web site. Duncan had heard the Jaguars were starting their men's program again. Ward wanted Duncan to reach out to his teammates, and the others soon followed in contacting Ward, continuing communication via e-mail and scheduling campus visits.
"He was extremely interested in getting a lot of the Greenbrier team," Duncan said.
All four eventually made their commitment and signed after Feb. 3. The group helped lead Greenbrier's boys to the Region 2-AAAAA title this past fall.
"Those guys really just initiated contact," Ward said. "I'm kind of glad they did, because it worked out well for us to have a group of young men with as much upside as those guys have."
The Wolfpack runners knew of the Jaguars coach before the process. They would pass him running on the Augusta Canal -- the Greenbrier runners having started at Savannah Rapids Pavillion and Ward taking off from Lake Olmstead. Ward said he reviewed their times and had seen them run during road races.
Blackwelder, the Wolfpack's most consistent runner as a senior, said he was in talks with a couple of other schools before signing with Augusta State. The final decision came down to security.
"Some of them got back to me, some of them didn't until later," Blackwelder said of the other programs. "Me and my parents wanted to go with the safe decision. Augusta State looks like a good choice."
Ward said he was impressed with Blackwelder's willingness to learn, that after Blackwelder made his decision he started asking Ward about the nuances in making the switch from running in high school to running in college. Ward noted Blackwelder's work ethic and how his times had fallen from his junior to senior years.
"The guy put in a lot of work and you can see that," Ward said. "He wants to improve."
Ward was sold on Castillo's personality; his ability to spread a positive vibe to his teammates. He also liked Castillo's potential.
Castillo said he wasn't looking to run in college. He was only looking for a place to go.
Ward's scholarship offer was a bonus, as was the chance to continue the relationship with teammates.
"It's going to be awesome," Castillo said. "We're pretty close."
In Kramer, Ward saw a willingness to get better. The evidence was the personal best 17:37 Kramer ran at the postseason Foot Locker South Regional in Charlotte, N.C.
Kramer heard of the Jaguars' opportunity through Duncan, and said he liked the school's nursing program.
"It's pretty cool," Kramer said. "I guess we've all been hoping the four of us would end up together so we could continue what we've started as far as relationships since freshman year."
Duncan said he was impressed with Ward's running knowledge. The coach provided the boys with a training plan to begin preparing to run for the Jaguars.
Duncan said the team would try to create buzz for the new program.
"We're just going to have to get all of our friends to come out and support the program and to spread the word," he said. "I'm sure not many people realize ASU has a cross country program now."
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